What Can You Do to Support Someone Who has Been Sexually Assaulted?

When someone tells you that she has been sexually assaulted, she is being very courageous.  She is trusting you will support and believe her.  She has chosen to tell you because she is hoping that you may help her to feel safe and supported.  Disclosing sexual assault or abuse can be very difficult.

What can you do to help?

There are many things you can do to support someone who has been sexually assaulted.  You can:

  • Listen empathetically
  • Accept what she tells you. Accept the fact that the assault/abuse happened.
    Understand that it is not her or your fault.
  • Believe her. Tell her you believe her and that it was not her fault
  • Let her know she is not to blame
  • Affirm that she is not alone
  • Respect her right for privacy
  • Encourage her to talk to someone she trusts
  • Listen non-judgmentally. Suggest options and actions (supportive, legal and other assistance), but let her decide what action to take
  • Encourage her to get medical attention. Her health is very important
  • Allow her to talk about the incident, but don't force the discussion
  • Respect and understand that she may become temporarily distant from loved ones
  • Take the initiative to maintain communications with her
  • Moderate your natural tendencies to become overprotective
  • Let her know she can call a Sexual Assault Centre for support (Click here to find support options)
  • Give her information, not advice. Gather information on her options if this would be helpful to her
  • Put your own expectations of her aside for now
  • Assure her  that you will be available to provide support throughout the process of recovery
  • Give her time to heal. Be patient and understand that the healing process takes time
  • Respect and support whatever choices she makes – even if it is to do nothing
  • Keep in mind that she may experience a variety of different emotions and may cope in a variety of ways. This is normal and every person is unique
  • Supporting somebody who has been sexually assaulted can be difficult or upsetting, especially if it is someone you care deeply about that is affected.  Get support for yourself if you need it.  Call a Sexual Assault Centre or other supportive service near you.


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